A ticking time bomb potentially involving 52,000 berths, smaller ports, landings, buoy fields, as well as onshore storage areas and shipyards. It all stems from the well-known Council of State ruling annulling all concessions extended ex officio, requiring them to expire on 12/31/2023.
We find out today that it is unrealistic for the legislature to pass a law and call for bids in less than two years. Boaters and entrepreneurs risk being left in the lurch of uncertainty and becoming all squatters as of January 1, 2024. To help us understand what is going on, we asked lawyer Antonio Bufalari, president of Assonautica Romana and lecturer in recreational boating law, for information.
Concession chaos: 52,000 berths at risk
The recent ruling by the Council of State, mandates the expiration on 12/31/2023 of all those concessions awarded in the past without competition, which expired and were then automatically renewed. This affects not only bathing establishments, but also recreation.
In fact, all operators under state concession are involved. This also affects berths, since most of those used for recreation along the coast are on docks, buoy fields, in sailing clubs and schools, rowing or fishing clubs, and amateur associations. Then there are onshore storage areas and areas used for shipyards. And right now everyone is in checkmate.
Berths, one in three is at risk
Of about 160,000 berths surveyed in Italy, 43,000 are not affected because they are in facilities defined as marinas (the main ports) and about 60,000 are in main ports, but the remaining, so potentially about 52,000 berths, are in facilities such as minor ports, landings, mooring points, which, except for small cases where there has been a competitive bidding process for the allocation of the state-owned area, are all under legislative extension, and therefore impacted by the ruling! It is definitely a large number. The exact number of concessions and the list of companies involved is not yet known, but that is what the various associations are trying to define these days.
Concession chaos, what the legislature should do
The ruling says that from January 2024, new concessions will have to be awarded on a competitive basis. The problem is that the laws to call the tender, as well as the ways to do so, are not there. The legislature, should, before 12/31/2023, first conduct a coastal census to make an assessment of the asset value and potential tourism value of coastal concession areas. Establish, in essence, how much they are worth so that they can be put into competition. It should then define the selection criteria for participating and selecting in the subsequent bidding process, approve the regulations, and delegate to the branches of the state directly responsible, the definition of the implementing regulations specifying in detail what and how to do.
Management at this point would then pass to state offices. Problems and delays are already occurring on the management of concessions, often due to reduced staffing levels in the offices of small municipalities that have to manage hundreds of files. All of a sudden, all the state concession offices, would have to deal with a myriad of concession tenders all at once, and it is not even certain that the expertise is there. A machine must be activated, which has never been set off before on this issue. Hence the real concern that we get bogged down in delays in the very last steps.
Let us not forget that the offices in charge of managing concessions will also have to manage all the beach concessions, restaurants, newsstands etc., which they will perhaps give more priority to than those related to recreation, for obvious tourist-seasonal interests, ed.
Concession chaos: what if the timetable is not met?
It is almost unrealistic for all these described steps to happen in two years from now, it is already thought that the card of a transitional norm could be played, for example in Article 10 of the Regulations for the Implementation of the Maritime Part of the Navigation Code, says that the agency can give temporary assignments, thus not an extension but a continuation of the service in the transitional phase of activating the tender.
If all the steps are not sorted out in time, in essence, all affected concessions become abusive as of 12/31/2024, and this could have more serious consequences for those with berths, whether on the water, or on land. In fact, onshore storage areas, and shipyards are also involved.
What the boater must do
There is no searchable register of marine state concessionaires. Boaters should keep an eye on their berth invoice and contract, inquiring about the nature of the concession awarded to the concessionaire, especially if the contract straddles the year.
What can happen to the yachtsman is that the concessionaire who manages his berth changes, and the criteria (and therefore also the prices ed.) by which berths are assigned change radically.
Those who have boats in storage or being worked on at a boatyard that lose their concessions should have no problem withdrawing them from the area; cases of stranded boats are always extreme, however, there is likely to be a period when some berths will be stalled or unavailable if there is no certainty about concessions.
Specifically, how are the associations doing?
Assonautica has called a board meeting for Nov. 29 to discuss the issue, and efforts will be made to build a common and shared path with other trade associations as well to share a path and proposals to take to the legislature.
Some associations point to recourse and the legal route, but that is not Assonautica’s approach. There is an emergency because the operators need certainty and to know what they will have to do to bid, what will happen to their investments, and plan for the future.
Few understood the impact on boaters
Apart from the associations’ statement, the discussion on concessions has already fallen into oblivion in the media, which, in the confusion generated by the term beach concessions, have basically forgotten the impact on the recreational and blue-economy businesses. There is a need to provide certainty and definite timeframes not only to concession holders, who want to make investments on state-owned land, but also to boaters. Assonautica is a representative that aims to follow up on the issue by representing the interests of members and providing them with transparent information, including individual boaters.
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